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  #1  
Old 12-31-2018, 09:23 AM
ILLINOIS.PAL ILLINOIS.PAL is offline
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Default Can you ever really know pen pal isn't conning you? What are the red flags?

I posted somewhere else online last night and someone who had a BIL at the same facility my pal is at told me people at that prison had several women on the outside sending them money. Like the only reason any of the men in there had penpals was for money - they even went to far as to say that prison has men and women (guards) that the guys bounce ideas off of. That person also said the inmates have people on the outside researching their penpals. Here:
These guys have a lot of time to devote to making you feel an emotional/romantic connection. The real attraction is that this person is available to you 24/7 and appear to be making deep connections. They also have hundreds of men and female staff to bounce your letter off and figure out the best way to answer you to get an attachment. They read and re-read letters then when talking to you on the phone, appear to know you inside out. They do because you told them.
Idk the whole post has me shook and questioning whether my MWI is conning me. He's never asked me for one cent (we've been writing 4 months) or anything else. I was the first to suggest a phone call.

Surely not everyone on the inside is out for their own gain? Surely they're all lonely and some really do seek genuine friendships and relationships? I have made clear I cannot and will not be romantically involved, but there's a lot of affection in our letters and we have an energy that I'm unable to explain - which, he mentioned first of course.

So, what are some red flags? Please someone tell me not everyone is out with malicious intent?
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Old 12-31-2018, 09:48 AM
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Hard to tell, but it's true that large swaths of prisoners are out to scam their pen pals. It is very common, and exactly as described.

The sooner any romance or feelings comes into play the bigger the red flag.
Once money, goodies or favors come into play: big red flag.
If you develop feelings for the pen pal: red flag.
If it looks too good to be true, it isn't true.

Other than that, you really never can be sure. Their enthusiasm and super cool behavior can also be circumstantial. You might be their only contact or outside person that shows any interest in them. They do not want to loose that and probably genuinely appreciate you. When they are released, the world engulfes them again and you are no longer important or you are someone that reminds them of their time in prison. Not a time they look back on with a lot of positive feelings. All very reasonable and understandably, I have to admit.

My advice: if you are a pen pal, do not venture beyond that pen pal friendship. Step back when your own feelings go further than that, because you make yourself prone to being used.

Last edited by marco1969; 12-31-2018 at 09:51 AM..
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Old 12-31-2018, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by ILLINOIS.PAL View Post
I I have made clear I cannot and will not be romantically involved, but there's a lot of affection in our letters and we have an energy that I'm unable to explain - which, he mentioned first of course.

So, what are some red flags? Please someone tell me not everyone is out with malicious intent?
Hey - I moved & retitled your thread as it appears that you are not in a committed romantic relationship with this person (=MWI) but this is (at least for now ) a pen pal friendship
(let me know if I misunderstood and I can move this back)
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Old 12-31-2018, 09:55 AM
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You're right Sari - I fantasize about it all the time because we connect so well, but I also remain cautious.
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Old 12-31-2018, 10:16 AM
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I can only speak to my experience as a Correctional officer. Do they try and bounce ideas off of us? Nope, never to me. I just don't have that type of relationship and its against the "inmate code" to get too friendly with staff members like that.

But I can tell you from handing out mail, I have seen the same inmate get multiple letters from different women. How many of these are wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters and aunts I have no idea. But some of them have different states and cities on them.

When collecting their mail to go out I have seen inmates with multiple letters going out to different women. Again I don't know if they are family members or multiple GFs.

BUT I have also worked the visiting room and I have seen inmates get visits from multiple women on different days. And for sure not all of them are family.

I have also been witness to confrontations in the visiting room when dates get crossed and we now have 2 women in the same room for the same guy. Then it turns ugly and as much as watching a real life jerry springer show is entertaining, we honestly do our best to prevent that. I really don't want to witness an assault between two civilians or a civilian and an inmate in my visiting room. We have enough to deal with.
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Old 12-31-2018, 10:24 AM
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I can only speak to my experience as a Correctional officer. Do they try and bounce ideas off of us? Nope, never to me. I just don't have that type of relationship and its against the "inmate code" to get too friendly with staff members like that.
Yeah I found that to be a little outlandish - I sincerely doubt they sit around all day asking everyone to read their letters and come up with replies.

But for the multiple letters - is that more common than not?
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Old 12-31-2018, 10:41 AM
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Yeah I found that to be a little outlandish - I sincerely doubt they sit around all day asking everyone to read their letters and come up with replies.

But for the multiple letters - is that more common than not?
I said they don't ask staff about their love letters. Each other? 100% I don't doubt that some of them do.

Every inmate is different. Some get many letters and magazines, newspapers and books almost everyday. Others get nothing. It all depends on their family network. Guys with extended families who support them I am sure have a nice commissary account. Others have no one to put money on their books or to write them.

Is everyone trying to con their pen-pals? Of course not. But some most definitely are. They can play the "long game" and write someone for months on end before asking for money. Remember if they have 3-4 penpals in various stages, it's worth it to play the long game.

I would be concerned with any penpal who you don't in some way have an outside connection. From the same neighborhood, family friend, sibling of a friend etc. It is just like online dating (match.com etc) you can paint yourself in a perfect light online, over letters, email or on the phone but the reality can be much different.
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Old 12-31-2018, 11:38 AM
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Its very true that penpals are big business in prison they can be a source of money and gifts and companionship through visits and phone calls. I have no doubt that some inmates male and female are playing multiple penpals for cash.

I like to penpal and I have always sent my first letter making it clear I don't send money or gifts and I don't want romance. (Although I have recently married a pen pal so I kind of messed up there) Most of my penpals have been happy with this and we have had friendships spanning up to 9 years with no red flags. Of course some have seen it as a challenge and tried to win me round with tales of lack of food and comforts etc. However I don't care its not my responsibility,harsh but true I didn't put them in there.

Do some play the long game? , of course they have years to try and persuade a pen pal that they are everything they have ever wanted and that they need to be looked after.

I have also heard of penpals offering money and support from the get go. There are inmates using penpals for money and support and pen pals using inmates for attention and love. Its a powerful combination both getting what they want in the short term but its not tenable its fake.This is why we hear stories of people who have stood by inmates for years with promises of marriage and children only to be dumped at the gate.

Are there genuine inmate penpals? of course there are. There are many successful MWI relationships. Its all about keeping your wits about you, not being swept away in some romantic dream and really getting to know the person you are writing to. Remember in most cases if something is too good to be true ,it probably isnt true.
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Old 12-31-2018, 12:32 PM
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Okay, I'm just going to post a few things that to me would be red flags:

- they tell you in their second letter (or very, very early on) that they've never met anyone like you & have never felt this way before...they are stunned that someone like you would write them and they are just in awe of everything you write and blah-blah-blah..... Come on; yes, there is such thing as fast love & instant connection but...with pen pals (and online relationships these days) - I would say true friendship takes time to develop...and then it turns to love, if it is meant to be....months, even years later (that is why I believe there are so many doubts and questions about whether people can trust each other; when you jump into a relationship in just a matter of weeks or couple of months, of course your brain is going to (and rightfully so) intervene and part of you becomes doubtful....if it seems too good to be true, it usually is).

- they don't ask directly but they share sad stories about what they are lacking and somehow you find yourself feeling sorry for them and wanting to help (financially). Or, in some cases, they are not shy about asking

- they use romantic phrases that, when you google them, turn out to be from Nicholas Sparks novels (I know, I know....maybe some might be genuinely romantic but for me this would be a vomit inducing moment - then again, I am definitely not a very romantic gal)

- they tell you you are all they have and that they could not live without you; that you have changed their life....all this within weeks of starting with letters

Anything that is too personal too fast...too intense, too desperate, full of flattery, full of cheesy lines and promises of love and happiness from here to eternity - I would keep an eye on. Like others have said above there definitely IS a thing called pen pal scam when it comes to prison pen pals....it's real, but not everyone is involved in it. Just like there are scammers in the free world, you just need to keep your feelers out and trust your gut. In my case, my now MWI fiancé and I were writing for about nine months as friends and then started crushing on each other (well, maybe it had been going on earlier but we kept it to ourselves) - and now, nearly four years later, we're hoping to get married next year. We've had our ups & downs, I still don't know how this will work out - I think he's my best buddy above all (he would kill me for using the word buddy - sorry, babe) - we also argue, he drives me nuts, we are SO different on so many levels.... but I don't think I've ever really doubted him as to if he's "using" me. I do support him financially now, but I think it took some 20 months of knowing him before I first sent him money (not that that alone would be any kind of guarantee of anything). I always keep it in my mind that this kind of relationship is a gamble, and if I weren't prepared for anything i wouldn't do it - I will survive no matter what and that's why I know I can take it if we won't work out.

The question is then, in my opinion....if you are ready to take the risk as with anything with life...is up to you, and this goes for both pen pals and romantic partners. If you think about it, being vulnerable whether it is a friendship or a love affair is always a gamble, there's never guarantees. It's just a matter of if you are aware of the risks and decide to jump in anyway...right?

Happy New Year y'all!
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Old 12-31-2018, 12:56 PM
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Okay, I'm just going to post a few things that to me would be red flags:

- they tell you in their second letter (or very, very early on) that they've never met anyone like you &

Anything that is too personal too fast...too intense, too desperate, full of flattery,
Hahaha. I had one that had a terrible rap sheet and was convicted of two gang related murders, who told me after a few letters where we related the basics about both our backgrounds: " if only I had met you when I was 15, then I would never have gone down the path etc. etc"

To be honest, in its clumsiness I found it amusing.
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Old 12-31-2018, 01:07 PM
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I'll list what I consider are three red flags:

1. The strikingly large proportion of male inmates in Kentucky who list themselves as being bisexual in their ads; (many of them are simply casting the net as wide as possible...)

2. A pen pal who drops regular hints and references in his or her letters about how low they are on funds, how they do not have funds to buy anything in commissary, how they do not have money for laundry and basic toiletries. They won't outright ask you for money, but will gradually guilt you into sending funds of your own accord.

3. References after just a few letters have been exchanged about a "special connection" between the two of you, about how much he/she admires you, how special you are and others forms of praise.
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Old 12-31-2018, 01:18 PM
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they tell you in their second letter (or very, very early on) that they've never met anyone like you & have never felt this way before...they are stunned that someone like you would write them and they are just in awe of everything you write and blah-blah-blah.....
In his response to my intro letter he thanked me several times for writing. Any time I would follow up on a promise (that I made unprovoked) he has thanked me several times. It wasn't until his last letter that he said he can't stop feeling "this" - he doesn't know how to explain it and doesn't want to. By that point we'd exchanged maybe 10-11 letters each in the span of 3 months time. I might've said elsewhere we're at 4 months but it's really more like 3.5.

Quote:
- they use romantic phrases that, when you google them, turn out to be from Nicholas Sparks novels
He actually sent me 3 printed photos of him (that I didn't ask for but was going to in the future - I think he had them taken for me) and on the back of one wrote something that was like "my flame is small but real and those who hold their candle to it can light their way" or something similar.. it was beautiful and I googled it but found nothing.

Quote:
Anything that is too personal too fast...too intense
He can be very intense. In the 5th or 6th letter he'd asked me several very intimate questions (well, like surface intimate not like intimate intimate) about my marriage, but in the letter before I'd griped about that stuff (I know, I KNOW!!! I'm foolish!!!).... and when I didn't really acknowledge that, he'd pulled himself back and his next letter was much more formal and reserved.

I sent an unsolicited $20 for Christmas and he wrote me a big ol' thank you letter and sent me a small painting and a handmade Christmas card. He said he's not the type to ask people for help, but he also doesn't have much income (though he works) or people sending him money. He'd included that last bit because he told me his TV (that he's had since 2006) has stopped working and he likes to take care of his things, so he was bummed. I don't think he's telling me this trying to scam me, but I'm still being cautious.

I mean, overall, I think he's not playing me, but I'm trying to keep my guard up and my emotional boundaries up as well. We, in my opinion, click. He's a wonderful conversationalist and very thoughtful, caring, inquisitive. I said over and over again I want to be friends with him for a long time, to be a sort of a positive influence in his life post-release.

That whole thing from reddit just had be shaken up... I'd hate to lose myself into this only to lose everything outside of it. I'm trying my hardest to keep my head above water here.
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Old 12-31-2018, 01:21 PM
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I'll list what I consider are three red flags:

1. The strikingly large proportion of male inmates in Kentucky who list themselves as being bisexual in their ads; (many of them are simply casting the net as wide as possible...)

2. A pen pal who drops regular hints and references in his or her letters about how low they are on funds, how they do not have funds to buy anything in commissary, how they do not have money for laundry and basic toiletries. They won't outright ask you for money, but will gradually guilt you into sending funds of your own accord.

3. References after just a few letters have been exchanged about a "special connection" between the two of you, about how much he/she admires you, how special you are and others forms of praise.
In re:

2. My CA penpal in every. letter. has talked about sharing the stuff he has with those who have nothing. He's sent me website links numerous times for me to "check out" care packages or music. He even, with the last letter, sent me a highlighted commissary list. I saw right tf through that.

3. My IL penpal (the one I hold dear) said in his last letter (which would've been his 10th or 11th letter over 3 months) that "it's weird but we seem to sense each others energy without having seen or touched or talked to each other." Any money I've sent ($20 for Christmas) was of my own accord (no suggestion or hints from him) and the phone calls we're going to start having next month was also brought up first by me. We do, however, spend much of each letter gushing over how awesome we think the other person is. But it's not crossed the "leave everything for me" line.
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Old 12-31-2018, 01:26 PM
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Quote:
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I mean, overall, I think he's not playing me, but I'm trying to keep my guard up and my emotional boundaries up as well. We, in my opinion, click. He's a wonderful conversationalist and very thoughtful, caring, inquisitive. I said over and over again I want to be friends with him for a long time, to be a sort of a positive influence in his life post-release.
In addition to the risk of being conned, there is another risk that you should consider. Your pen-pal may have the best of intentions, he may be entirely honest in this moment about how he feels about you and you truly might be at the centre of his life right now. There is a very real chance that this will not be the case after he is released, no matter how close or intimate his language is at the present time. Right now, his possibilities are few, so naturally he gravitates to you and the positive things you bring to his life. Upon release, however, his options will be numerous...old friends will reappear in his life, he will make new friends locally and he will navigate a free world and all kinds of new relationships in his circles.
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Old 12-31-2018, 02:01 PM
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In addition to the risk of being conned, there is another risk that you should consider. Your pen-pal may have the best of intentions, he may be entirely honest in this moment about how he feels about you and you truly might be at the centre of his life right now. There is a very real chance that this will not be the case after he is released, no matter how close or intimate his language is at the present time. Right now, his possibilities are few, so naturally he gravitates to you and the positive things you bring to his life. Upon release, however, his options will be numerous...old friends will reappear in his life, he will make new friends locally and he will navigate a free world and all kinds of new relationships in his circles.
I also keep that in mind which helps keep me on earth about this. I fully expect that after being in prison for 20 years he'll want to live life to the fullest. Heck, he'll still be kind of young when he gets out (late 30s). Also, I remind myself daily it's not like they have a ton of options in prison - they're at the mercy of those who contact them. Kind of like, beggars can't be choosers. I am hopeful he'll remember the friendship we have once he's out and will continue to be in my life in that way.
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Old 12-31-2018, 09:10 PM
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The fastest way to find out if you met a friend or foe. Let them know upfront what you will and won't do regardless of what their profile says.

If he continues to write good, if not you have your answer.

Treat them the same way you would meeting a new friend on the street.

The ball is always in your court..

Just because he doesn't ask for money doesn't mean he's a great guy either..
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Old 01-01-2019, 04:08 AM
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When you think you are conned stop sending money and see what happens. Of course he has feelings for you,you might be the only one paying attention to him, but those feelings aren't love, he loves the feeling you give him.Like you love the idea of a man that is willing to listen to every need you have when your spouse is busy with the normal things in life.
This man behind bars has nothing else to do than just be there for you when you need him............. Some of them really prey on needy women...........been there so I know the ugly side of what a con can do to you.
When you offer friendship make sure that he can't read anything between the lines that you didn't intend to be there. Even the smallest hint can be made to be something big when a person is lonely.
He can be a great friend or your worst enemy.
What are red flags well IF you feel there are red flags there probably are.
Everything depends on YOUR intentions and his willingness to accommodate your feelings. How genuine are your own feelings????
Are you looking for attention your spouse will provide that if you make him aware you feel forgotten.
Do you have friendship to offer, offer it what you do with feelings of love towards your pen pal, well you can't help how you feel but you are in control of how you act.
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